Its hard to quantify the power of social media. It can elevate people to stardom virtually overnight or destroy someone’s career (life?) in less time than that (just do a search for Donald Sterling and see for yourself).
Of course, brands are always trying to surf the profitable side of that wave, without being destroyed by the negative feedback tides. And one brand that has been able to play that game is Samsung. In March this year, Ellen DeGeneres took a selfie of a handful of A-list celebrities.
That in itself would have been enough to warrant thousands of retweets, but the brilliance of this particular capture was that it was done at the Oscars, on camera (where you can easily identify the device that took the photo) broadcast to 1 billion of spectators around the world.
Needless to say, the selfie broke the retweet record (yes there is such a thing and it was previously held by President Obama’s “Four more years” tweet). To be precise, it was retweeted 3.1 million times. Samsung achieved any brand’s dream, it had everyone talking on social and traditional media and it was associated with the cream of the Hollywood crop (Julia, Meryl, Brad, Angelina, Lupita, Jennifer, Kevin…) even though they didn’t even sign up for that.
But of course, this social media home run began to sound too good to be true. Almost immediately after it was posted, speculation began that the selfie was not 100% spontaneous but rather a carefully planned multi-million dollar publicity stunt, after all Samsung was one of the most prominent sponsors of the this year’s Oscars. Spontaneous or not, the result was still astounding, and probably worth every penny. Does it even matter that it wasn’t authentic?
Later that evening there was buzz on the internet that Ellen herself doesn’t even use a Samsung phone when she allegedly tweeted a photo backstage via Twitter for iPhone app. She later made a statement saying that it had been a hack, but the point here really is that when a brand puts itself out there on social media, it opens itself to all sorts of unintended consequences.
Samsung didn’t stop there. During a visit to the White House, baseball player David Ortiz took a selfie with President Obama from a Samsung device. It was all over the news.
This time, the reaction was a bit different. Speculation began as to whether this was a publicity stunt and the White House would have none of it. This time headlines read “David Ortiz Selfie Scandal Rocks the White House.”
If you do the math, I’d guess these were both wins for Samsung. But from a branding perspective, they’ll now have to deal with the perception that any public selfie taken with a Samsung device is attached to a multi-million dollar publicity stunt (as opposed to famous people using a great device because they want to).
I find it confusing to put together such contradictory concepts as accessible luxury. Can Burberry really be aspirational and accessible at the same time? Can they cater to the signature check lovers and please the Burberry Prorsum customers at same time?
This case reminded me of Longchamp in many ways. In my previous life as an Architect I worked on a project for one of their stores and it baffled me that the brand’s signature Pliage bag, which brings in a staggering percentage of the company’s revenues, was not given more attention. In fact, the family, who still controls the company since it was founded in the 40s, seemed to want to focus all the shelf space to the more pricey leather bags. All the advertising was also targeted at the more expensive leather pieces and, like Burberry, they also felt that Kate Moss would be the perfect personification of their prodcut.
But how can two such distinct products exist under the same brand? Who is the Longchamp woman? Its hard to define (and design for) a brand when it appeals to such a broad customer base—the success of the Pliage means that it appeals to everyone from a teenager in high-school to her grandmother.
I would guess that the luxury items (and Kate Moss, of course) would help sales of the more accessible Pliage immensely. But what does the omnipresence of the Pliage do to the luxury image of the brand?